The Cleveland Cavaliers made a statement as they handled the Toronto Raptors in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 115 to 84 win at home. Cleveland has now won all nine of its post season games while Toronto went to seven games in both of their previous matchups against the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat.
Many have been wondering whether Cleveland would suffer from the infamous “Rest vs. Rust” argument which implies that teams with long breaks tend to struggle against teams that are in more of a playing habit. Some believe this was a contributor to Cleveland’s downfall in the 2009 playoffs to the Orlando Magic, after they swept their first two series against the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, which has been mirrored so far in these playoffs. The Cavaliers, however, seemed entirely locked in for the majority of the game, seeming as though they didn’t miss a beat on their way to this commanding game one win.
The Raptors got off to a strong starting, taking a quick seven-point lead to start the game. The Cavaliers, however, quickly responded behind the strong play of their “big three.” Kyrie Irving led Cleveland’s hot start with 12 first quarter points. LeBron James, began his onslaught early as well, going four for four from the field by continually attacking the basket. Kevin Love added eight points, including two 3-pointers that helped jumpstart Cleveland’s run. DeMar DeRozan shot the ball well for Toronto, keeping them in the game with his 12 points. Cleveland led at the end of the first, 33-28.
The Cavaliers began to run away with the game in the second quarter, stopping the Raptors from scoring a field goal for the first seven minutes. Hot shooting and hustling defense allowed the Cavaliers to make a 22 to two run in the quarter, eventually ending with a 66-44 lead at the half. According to ESPN, the Cavaliers scored 70 percent of their first half points in the paint. Irving continued to lead Cleveland in scoring with 18 points, while James added another 14. DeRozan led the Raptors with 16, but the team as a whole struggled to find a shooting flow as Cleveland continued to spread the gap between the two teams.
Cleveland did not slow down in the second half, as they continued to stretch their lead to 30 points behind the strong play of Irving and James. Cleveland maintained a field goal percentage above 60 percent in the third quarter, allowing their starters to receive much needed rest after having distanced themselves enough to avoid a Toronto comeback. Irving led the team with 27 points off 11-17 shooting from the field. James added 24 points off 11-13 shooting, having hit his first nine field goal attempts of the night. The balanced scoring effort from the Cavaliers, who had 11 players put points on the board, allowed them to maintain a dominant lead over the struggling Raptors through the entirety of the second half. DeRozan, who played well for Toronto after having an up and down series against Miami, scoring 18 points. Unfortunately, no other Raptor was able to provide any significant contribution to the scoring load, ultimately halting their ability to challenge the rolling Cavaliers.
Cleveland outplays Toronto
On top of the hot shooting of Cleveland, who held a 55 percent mark for the game as opposed to Toronto’s 42 percent, the Cavaliers also outrebounded the Raptors by over 20 boards. Cleveland grabbed 45 total rebounds, including 10 on the offensive board, which outmatched Toronto’s 23 rebounds by a significant margin. In addition to shooting percentage and rebounds, the Cavaliers also held a higher assist mark than Toronto, showing their willingness to get so many players involved in the scoring effort. Toronto has responded well in their previous playoff matchups, having lost game one of both series which they won in seven games, but they must play to the best of their abilities if they wish to top a Cleveland team that has found a near-perfect flow at the best time of the season.
Game two will be played in Cleveland on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.